know what to do with myself now, so I'm doing nothing, well
almost nothing. We are titivating the block by removing some
weeds (mostly lantana but also some rats tail grass) and doing
a few small jobs around the place, but mostly our day goes
something like this...
- Sleep in 'till about 8 or 9
- Have a coffee then quickly eat some
breakfast or it will be too late and we'll have to have
morning tea instead
- Chris reads while I tinker with
the computer or wander around with my camera looking for
- Lunch on the deck
- Chris reads while I tinker with
the computer or wander around with my camera looking for
- Afternoon tea on the deck
- At around 4 when it's getting cooler
I put a beer in the freezer and we head out on lantana patrol
- Returning at 5:30 or thereabouts
we wash in a tub of recently collected rainwater
- My beer is now nice and cold and
we settle on the deck to watch the world (and the wallabies)
- Watch some TV
- Chris goes to bed and I tinker with
the computer until about 1AM
- Naturally I'm exhausted after such
a strenuous day and I sleep well
So what's next? It's hard to say, every
second day we look at the maps and come up with a plan, so
far no two plans have been the same, but in general we're
keen to get back up north.
Meanwhile we're happy just doin' what
Till next time
then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Wed 11 Feb 2009
What a couple of slackoes we are, we've been
on the block for about two weeks now and have done almost nothing.
Good isn't it?
I did bite the bullet and buy that new laptop, and
what a weapon it is to. After all my fears about moving to a new operating
system I have to report that I am very happy with Vista.
So far just about everything has run perfectly. I
was worried that I have too many old programs to make the change
but after having a critical look at what I really used — as
opposed to what was loaded on the system — I realised that
there weren't that many programs to migrate after all.
My VB-based applications that I use to organise my
photos and this web site worked after a little tweaking, and they're
twice as fast. The only real problem is the program I use to analyse
changes in the site and synchronize what I have on the laptop with the
version on the server. This program uses FTP to do the synchronising
but for some reason it cannot get a connection. So I'll have to make
some changes to the way I work there.
For that reason the updates may be a bit sparse for
a while until I write some new uploading code.
I've also been backing up all my photo CDs/DVDs
and found that just about all of them had errors. Fortunately I
have backups of my backups, but I still lost a few original RAW
files. I now have all my photos on an external 1TB drive (that's
1024 gigabytes) and it's nearly full. That's a lot of DVDs. And
now I suppose I should create new DVD backups in case the external
Welcome to the world of digital photography.
Sun 15 Feb 2009
Mostly we have been watching the birds and
wandering around our land. 25 acres isn't a huge area but our land
is steep and densely timbered so we've been finding all sorts of nooks
and crannies to explore.
One such cranny is a small ravine, it has extremely
steep sides which partly explains why we haven't been down there before.
At the bottom there's a couple of tiny waterfalls and pools, it's a
lovely spot but there's some lantana around which clogs it up a bit.
In most of Australia lantana is considered a noxious
weed that must be removed. The local authorities don't seem that worried
about it but I don't want it taking over as it is wont to do, so while
I'm down in the ravine I pull some of the plants out by the roots.
Mon 16 Feb 2009
I think I've started something now because
we're in "get rid of the lantana" mode. Lantana is actually
quite a nice-looking bush with lovely flowers, but it can entirely
take over an area and then be a bugger to get rid of. It also happens
to like the very ravines and gullies that I want to be able to wander
freely in, so the stuff has to go.
It will be a while before we leave here I think (mostly
because the north of the state is flooded and that's where we want to
go) so we'll spend an hour or so each day removing lantana.
I've been cutting the larger plants off near the ground
which does the trick for now but I'm sure it will re grow. We really
should poison the stumps immediately after cutting but we don't have
the chemicals. So I'm fairly certain that much of what we're doing will
have to be done again when we return in a couple of years time, but
at least we will have set the weed back some. If we do nothing now it
may be totally out of control by the time we get back here.
Fortunately it's been raining a lot lately and
the ground is quite soft, this means that I can pull the smaller
plants out by the roots so at least they won't re grow.
Sun 22 Feb 2009
For a while now I've been saying that we want
to head north, up through Queensland and into Northern Territory.
But if we are to do so we really should go soon as it's normal to
arrive in the Territory in about May for the start of the dry season,
and we travel so slow that we'd like 2-3 months to get there.
Trouble is the entire state of
Queensland seems to be under water, so we decide to get on the web and
see what roads are closed. Here's the map from the RACQ website.
Note that the
symbols mean that there are problems in the area.
They have divided Queensland into sixteen areas
and as I'm sure you've noticed every one of them
have closed roads and other issues relating to the flooding.
So I guess we'll just sit here for a while.
Fri 20 Feb 2009
I've finally managed to implement a new FTP
upload procedure so I should be able to post updates easier from now
I've kept my VB program as it does most of the hard
work, I just couldn't get it to FTP under Vista so now it simply creates
a file of FTP commands. This file is then read by a PHP program that
can perform the upload actions.
It's not a fantastic system but it seems to be working.
You may be asking "Why bother when all web site
authoring programs will sync the local and remote sites anyway?".
That's true, but firstly they do it by scanning the
remote site and comparing file date stamps with the corresponding local
file. With something like 16,000 files on this site that would take
a lifetime and use bandwidth I'm paying for.
Secondly, I've used three authoring packages over
the years (Dreamweaver, GoLive, and Frontpage) and in all cases the
sync results were inaccurate, they flagged files to upload that hadn't
changed, and missed files that had.
So, as usual I have to write my own software. What
on earth most professional developers do I cannot imagine as this would
be a nightmare.
Actually I know what some professional developers
do because I've asked a couple. They say that they just write down the
names of the files they edit then manually upload them.
I guess I'm too lazy for that, but it would have to
be very error prone.
Some macro shots taken over the last few days.
Mon 23 Feb 2009
We drive into Bundaberg today. Chris is on
a mission to buy a new brushcutter, the long grass has finally got
to her. You see we only planned to stay here a week or two then head
off, so we figured we would just put up with the unkempt look of the
But we've been here nearly a month now
and might stay for some time yet, so Chris wants to get back into some
tidying up and that means we need a new brushcutter.
We return to our favourite Stihl shop
and select the FS90, it's a slightly larger version of the one we used
to have and it's also a four stroke so it should have more power.
While here I get a new chainsaw, there
are a lot of fallen trees around and I'd like to be able to clear them
Now brushcutters and chainsaws are not
the normal tools of trade for travelling motorhomers as I'm sure you
can appreciate. They are more the tools required by people not travelling
and sitting on 25 acres.
I'm sure you can see the trend here.
We still may go north as we have an iron in that fire, but if that
doesn't work out I think we'll stay here for a few months.
Sat 28 Feb 2009
While driving back from town after buying our
weekly newspaper there is an almighty noise from the rear of the Cruiser
and instantly it starts careering all over the place.
For several hundred metres we fishtail down the
road, on two occasions I think we might roll as 4x4s are top heavy
and very prone to doing that. However I manage to keep things under
control by turning into the sideways slides as they start and not
over reacting. I even manage to park on the side of the road, the
opposite side that is.
We are very lucky though because for several seconds
we were all over the road, if a logging truck had been coming the other
way it may have been a very different story. Maybe not, I used all the
road because it was free, possibly I may have kept control and stayed
on my side, but I wouldn't put money on that.
We get out to check the damage, the rear tyre is totally
shredded. I've pretty much stripped the car of tools because we're about
to sell it but at least I still have a jack and a spare, but no blocks
of wood and the axle is so close to the ground that I can't get my jack
under the spring properly, yet without blocks the jack won't reach the
I place the jack in a quite unsafe location along
the spring pack, jack up as far as I can, then put a spare starter motor
under the spring U-bolt with a view to lowering onto that then going
up in stages. This is why you need some wooden blocks or preferably
a second jack.
We're wandering around looking for some logs when
a neighbour emerges from his drive. He has a jack so we very smartly
have the spare fitted.
Tue 3 Mar 2009
We just love walking around our land but it's
very steep in places so we spend more time looking at our feet than
the scenery, so for some time now I've had in mind to build a series
of walking tracks.
I reckon that I can get 2-3 kilometres of track if
I'm clever with the route and this will make for a very pleasant walk
— or indeed a run — as a good way to keep fit. I used to
run along a track beside the Murrumbidgee river every day after work
and do miss it a bit. I was never interested in running around town
on pavements, too boring, but I do get into running on bush tracks where
you have jump over obstacles and generally concentrate on not twisting
So for a couple of days we've been cutting a track
in the gully below the truck's parking spot. It's coming along well
and the recently acquired chainsaw is helping with the logs, not only
can I clear them from the new path but the off cuts can be used to bridge
It's while constructing such a bridge that I hear
Chris scream. My first thought is that she's been bitten by a snake
as we've seen plenty around. In fact the other day we helped a neighbour
try to evict a brown snake from his shed (Pete lives in the shed and
is scared to sleep there now he knows he has a lodger).
Anyway getting back to Chris, I've got some good news
and some bad news. The good news is that she hasn't been bitten by a
snake. The bad news is that she has broken her arm.
She slipped on the slope while clearing some grass,
came down on her arm and felt something break.
I help her back to the truck then into the car and
we drive down to Gin Gin.
While we didn't choose to buy land here specifically
because it was close to a small town (15k to Gin Gin) and fairly close
to a large town (65k to Bundaberg) that was certainly considered a plus
point to this particular area. In the last year or so the Gin Gin hospital
has been expanded and it's at times like this you really want medical
facilities within reach. So I guess we're going to have the opportunity
to check out the hospital's new features, I hope they now have an x-ray
So to cut a longish story short, after a couple of
hours we emerge from the hospital. Chris has been x-rayed and has a
single break near the right wrist. They have put a half cast on her
arm and in a week when the swelling subsides we have to go into the
Bundaberg base hospital's fracture unit for an appraisal and full cast.
The full cast will have to be on for about six weeks
which is a real drag as it pretty much precludes her from important
tasks like cooking, washing, and brushcutting.
So my question is, who the hell is going to do those
Sat 7 Mar 2009
Hands up all those who said it's Rob who's going to be doing all the
chores. Well done, go to the top of the class.
The other day, while at the hospital, we were given
a disc with the x-rays which we are supposed to take into the fracture
unit at Bundaberg. I asked if I could view the images but was told that
they are in a "special" format.
So today I decide to see just what this special format
is. As it happens the format is so special that Windows recognizes it
immediately and boots a viewer. Yep, that's a pretty special format
So, just to show that Chris isn't faking and that
this isn't a cunning plan to get me to do more around the house, here's
The overall x-ray of Chris's wrist,
and what a dainty wrist it is too.
And here's a closeup, the fracture
While preparing dinner I'm slicing some silverbeet
when I also slice the end off my left thumb. Ouch.
We patch it up with a band aid—an exercise
in itself with me only having the use of my right hand and Chris
her left—then continue with the food preparation.
I have to hold my left arm in the air to keep the
blood away from my hand and the food, and Chris is holding her right
arm up because any other position hurts.
What a carry on, like an episode of Laurel and
Hardy, with one of us holding, say, the pan steady while the other
stirs the contents. Still we have quite a few laughs.
Sun 8 Mar 2009
I honestly don't know how people do this
domestic crap every day. I remember a few years ago when we were
working at the Old Tyrconnell gold mine, we were cleaning cabins
and after about three days I'd had a gut full. If I do a job I expect
it to stay done, but with this cleaning lark you clean one day and
come right back the next day and do it all over again. I find this
very frustrating, I just don't have the cleaning gene.
Let's take this afternoon for example. I have to wash
the dishes which takes forever because they seem to have piled up beyond
belief. Then under Chris's tuition I prepare some food for tonight's
meal, a process that involves squishing all sorts of yucky stuff between
my fingers which is bad enough, but with every ingredient the pile of
dirty plates and containers get higher.
And now I have to wash the dishes again.
Then we eat and guess what, there's another pile of
dishes. I swear I don't know where they all come from. I can go bushwalking
for days, even weeks, with a spoon, a cup, and a bowl. That's it. With
three items I can do all my cooking, eating, and drinking.
Now I can hear you saying that Chris does this
every day and that's true. But she actually enjoys it. Me, I'd rather
chew my arm off, but then I'd have no usable hands.
Fri 13 Mar 2009
We did another 30-odd metres of walking track
this morning, a good hour or so's hard labour which hopefully is reducing
my waistline a tad.
Later we're sitting on the deck when we notice birds
cavorting in the trees. There are a dozen Noisy Friarbirds, one of which
is being chased around in circles by a Spangled Drongo. Meanwhile two
Magpies are foraging along the newly cut track, and a couple of Crows
are following them wondering why the pickings are slim (here's a hint
fellas, go in front of the Magpies). As if this isn't enough entertainment
a flock of Rainbow Lorakeets descends on a tree just two metres from
the truck. They fight over who knows what then fly to another tree where
they are joined by some of the Friarbirds
Then two bright red and green King Parrots zoom past,
loop around the truck and head back from whence they came.
Hovering just inches from the ground are hundreds
of yellow butterflies, while at the other extreme two huge Wedge-tailed
eagles circle high above us on the thermals.
For over an hour we watch the antics of the wildlife
with a backdrop of hills receding into the light misty rain.
Just the other day we saw an echidna and before that
our resident goanna, then this morning eight pretty-faced wallabies
wandered past and preceded in single file down our new walking track
and a family of Choughs (large birds, pron. "chuffs") walk
past the truck hunting in the grass.
So what's all this leading to? Weeeeeell...we
might just stick around for a while.
Thu 19 Mar 2009
We drive into Bundaberg today.
We need a cart of some kind to carry tools and
material around the block, so after looking at a couple of different
types we settle on a cute little four-wheel cart with drop sides.
How cute is this, our new garden cart
Of course the main feature of this cart is that it
only requires one hand to operate, so Chris can help with the clearing
But that's not the only thing we've bought that's
small and cute and has four wheels.
After a lifetime of counseling against buying new
cars because of the depreciation and locked-in service schedules, guess
what we've bought.
Yep, a new car.
A Suzuki Jimny JX to be precise. The JX is the base
model with no fancy gadgets that will break, like electric windows,
engine immobiliser, central locking etc. It is also devoid of any
power steering which is something I would have liked but I guess
So what's with the car? We had decided to live with
just the motorbike after we sell the Cruiser, after all we did just
fine without a car for six years on the road. And a car can be a pain
in the arse with extra maintenance, rego, insurance etc.
I think Chris's accident the other day has had
something to do with the decision. Because we had the Cruiser it
was easy for me to drive her down to the hospital. Even then it
was quite painful for her bouncing around in the car, imagine if
she had been on the back of a trail bike. Also Chris doesn't ride,
so what if it had been me with a broken arm? It was only 15 kilometres
of bitumen into town this time, but what if it had been 150 kilometres
of rough dirt track?
So we've bought the thing and I'm happy with the purchase.
No photos yet because it has to be delivered from who knows where and
it's not ready, but here's one I prepared earlier.
A Suzuki Jimny exactly the same
as ours except it's different, being blue instead of white and an
We didn't go straight to a new Suzi though. We've
been trawling the web for a couple of weeks looking for a near new one,
and there are a few around but not in this area which makes it hard
to check them out. Then we spot a 10-year old unit in a Bundaberg dealer's
yard, but it has a whine in the transmission and tends to wander at
The salesman is all over us though, pointing out that
they have reduced the car by over $5000. Pigs arse, the so-called reduction
is from some hugely inflated price that has no bearing on reality, it's
just a number he's written on a notepad. We say we want to get some
lunch and think about it so he drops the old salesman's classic, "There's
someone coming up from Hervey Bay to look at the car at 1:30. It's the
right vehicle and the right price, if you can leave a deposit it's yours".
Well maybe, but that's the wrong technique. "That's good"
says Chris, "I believe in fate, if we are meant to have it then
we are meant to have it. We'll come back at 2". We hate being pressured
and anyway I'm starving.
The reason salesmen won't let you leave is that it's
usual to change your mind once you sit down and have a think about things.
Which is exactly what happens now.
Because we plan to keep any vehicle we get for many
years we don't want to start with something that possibly has problems
to begin with.
We've been talking to another salesman from the same
dealership but another yard, he has a new Jimny to look at so we have
a feed and drive up to see it. We take it for a drive and the difference
is amazing. So we ask for their best price.
"$17,990..." he says. Hmm, that's not too
bad I think, "...plus on road costs". Well how much can that
There's much tapping of calculator keys. He writes
a figure on his pad and turns it around for us to read.
Whoa, no way. So what's our top price he asks, Chris
replies that the original figure of about $18,000 sounds right. He says
he'll see what he can do and leaves the office to consult his boss.
The boss comes in, "Good news" he says,
to which I think they've come down to $18,000. He's holding the notebook
close to his chest. He puts it on the table and turns it around with
much flourish. On the page, in large letters, double underlined and
boxed with biro is the good news.
We say no. So what's the best you can do we are
asked yet again. $18,000 we reply. He asks if we have any flexibility
on the $18,000. "Yes we can go down to $15,000" Chris
For two hours this continues. Chris does the bartering
as I never haggle over price. Something is either worth the amount to
me and I buy it, or it's not and I walk out, which I go to do several
times, but each time I stand up they say they'll ring the owner of the
dealership and see what he can do. And each time the answer is still
way above $18,000 and we go to leave again.
Eventually we settle on $18,250 after Chris offers
to quit smoking to pay for the extra $250.
Now we are bombarded with the second round of
salesmanship—extras. A woman comes in and proceeds to tell
us how we can have fabric protection, tinted windows, some protective
coating on the paint so it will be easier to wash (like I've ever
washed a car in my life), this thing, that thing, and something
How much is all this?
She writes a an astronomical figure on a notepad.
That's what it would "normally" cost. But she immediately
crosses the figure out, writes another slightly less astronomical figure
and turns the pad around for us to read. Wow, it's gone down from a
falsely inflated $X to a falsely inflated $X minus about 3%.
What's with these people and their notepads and ridiculous
false prices? I tell her that there's no way in hell we're spending
that much on useless stuff and she leaves.
The another woman comes in. She's not trying to
sell us anything, she just wants our money. So we provide certain
details and a 10% deposit and we're done. The car should be here
in a week or two.
Fri 20 Mar 2009
So now we've bought a car maybe I should try
to justify the expense. We got on just fine for years with just the
motorbike, but then it has been useful having the Cruiser (which has
to go by the way, it's too old, too large, and too expensive to run).
Here are a few rationales...
As mentioned before, if one of us breaks an arm or worse we need
a vehicle that both of us can drive, possibly for a long distance.
Chris can't drive either the truck or bike.
If say for example, we have another gearbox failure and we're
in the middle of nowhere it's feasible for me to drop the box
out and transport it to the nearest town. Or if we have three
flat tyres (as a friend did on the way to Birdsville once) I can
go and get another, even if I have to hire a trailer to bring
it back. Or if I have to spend a week driving to the nearest city
for a part I can with a car.
I plan to get back into some serious bushwalking and this will
often mean leaving from trail heads that are difficult or impossible
to get to with the truck and Chris can't ferry me on the bike.
I could of course just ride myself, but often I'm not happy leaving
a vehicle unattended for days, and also sometimes a walk finishes
at a different location.
a given that the best landscape photos are usually taken in the
worst weather and/or around sunrise/sunset. I don't mind walking
in the rain with camera gear and I don't mind driving, but a motorbike
is not really on. Also, in the pre-dawn chill walking and driving
are OK, but riding is not, especially if I have no predetermined
subject. Often I just like to drive around and see what happens.
In good weather the bike is actually better for this and can get
more places, but in bad weather I know that I just won't go.
With no car Chris can't go anywhere without me (as if she'd want
to) unless she walks, but more importantly if she wants to go
anywhere I have to go as well. Mostly I don't mind of course but
I'd rather crawl across broken glass than enter a supermarket
and Chris hates me being there anyway because she feels pressured
to get the shopping done quickly. With a car maybe she can go
by herself :-)
Most of the above scenarios are possible on
a bike but they are either too dangerous, too inconvenient, or just
too damn cold.
I know from experience that if it's -2 outside and
I'm faced with the choice of riding 10k to get a good photo or staying
in my nice warm bed then the bed will win.
So there. Convinced? Well I am.
So how are we going to get the car around the country?
A-framing is the obvious choice I suppose, but then we don't drive far
at any one time so it's feasible for Chris to just drive the Suzi, we
did that with the Cruiser and it worked fine.
Driving separately has some advantages, the biggest
of which is the car can act as an early warning system. Some of the
development roads up north are very narrow and we found it was good
for Chris to drive ahead by 2-3k and warn me of oncoming road trains.
It's much better to have a few minutes advanced knowledge that one of
these huge trucks with four trailers is coming than a few seconds.
Also, towards the end of the day Chris used to scout
for a camping spot and warn me so I could slow down in time and not
Naturally if we drive separately there's extra fuel
and wear on the car. Also without co-pilot I have no way of getting
a drink or checking that the fridge door hasn't opened.
A-framing solves the fuel and co-pilot problems and
some of the wear issue. If I implement an A-frame of course we can disconnect
when required and have the best of both worlds.
However there's no obvious place to build a tow
hitch on the truck and I've had enough of that type of work for
the moment, so we'll see how it goes.
Tue 24 Mar 2009
Ok, here's a joke, "How do you know when
there's going to be a cock up?" Answer, "When you're dealing
with just about anybody in the commercial world". You're right,
it's not that funny, but it does seem to be typical.
They can't get the right car. It seems that the only
white JX Jimny in Australia has an '08 compliance plate. Well it's the
same car, just a different plate, but it makes a difference when you
come to sell it.
But they have a solution, we can have the '08 car
for the same price as the '09 one we ordered.
Or we can wait two months for one to come from Japan.
Or we can have an '09 car that's black. I don't think
so, black is the worst possible colour to keep clean and cool. Would
we take any other colour? "Yes" I say, "any light colour
as long as it's the same price". Other colours normally cost more
and the salesman doesn't seem to think they'll come at that, but he'll
see what's available.
I hang up and go back to what I'm doing. Before long
the phone rings again, good, hopefully they've found a car.
"Is that Rob?", I answer in the affirmative
because, after all that is my name, "Wayne here from Darwin, we'd
like to offer you the job".
What job! Ooooh that's right.
Let me go back a few weeks.
In February Chris was reading the Weekend Australian
and noticed a position for an Instrument Technician. Now that in itself
didn't seem all that interesting but some of the criteria did. For example...
- Bush skills, ability and aptitude to work in remote
locations in challenging physical environments for several weeks at
a time, strong swimmer, able to obtain a NT drivers license and firearms
- Swift water boat handling, quad bike and 4WD skills.
- Crocodile wrestling experience looked upon favourably.
Alright I made up the bit about crocodiles, but this
was starting to sound interesting, so I rang the contact. Next thing
I know I'm updating my resume and writing an application. A couple of
weeks go by when I get a phone call, I'm on the short list and there
will be an interview via conference call on the following Monday.
Sounds good, now I'm starting to get a bit excited.
I go through the interview and feel I've done OK but
could have answered many questions a lot better, isn't it always the
case? Anyway I'm told that they should decide in the same week or maybe
early the following week.
The week comes and goes with no call, oh well it's
not looking good.
The next week comes and goes with no call, that's
probably that then.
Yet another week comes and goes with no call, I reason
that there's no way the decision could take this long if I'd been selected
and I mentally write off the whole affair.
On Tuesday morning of the fourth week after the interview
(this morning) I decide to chalk the Darwin job down to experience and
take a different path in life, a path that still sees me being paid
but that is a lot more flexible.
THEN I get the bloody call.
Too late, the die is cast, but it's nice to know
that the old dog (that's me in case you are wondering) is still
employable in a real job.
Wed 25 Mar 2009
Yay they've found the right car. Now the cynic
in me would think that it was available all the time but they have
an '08 model they need to off load on someone. Still that's just me.
Hopefully it will be delivered next week or early
the week after, meanwhile we're doing a bit more on the walking
Some shots of the new track. Note that I've highlighted the track in the two horizontal photos to make it easier to see.
I think you can see how we plan to get 2-3 kilometres
of track on just 25 acres, with all those switchbacks I can double
or triple the length of the track in the steep areas, which is most
of the block.
Thu 26 Mar 2009
This is certainly a time of new toys. With
a view to getting back into landscape photography with a vengeance
I've spent the last few months looking around for a digital equivalent
to my old Tachihara 5x4" field camera.
Large-format cameras like this allow the film and
lens to be moved independently of each other. This is a very useful
feature for those photographing landscapes and architecture as it allows
you to keep verticals vertical (not leaning backwards as happens with
most cameras) and obtain that impossibly sharp focus you see in those
great landscape calendars.
The other thing I love about these cameras is that,
until recently anyway, they were immune to the technology race. The
basic design hasn't changed in over 150 years and it works just as well
now as the day it was invented. What has changed is the recording media,
few people use film any more and that's the problem.
Unfortunately there is just nothing that works the
same in the digital world or that is even remotely affordable by my
standards. I still have the Tachihara and love it to death but it's
a film camera that costs a lot to feed, around $20 per colour photo.
It is possible to get digital backs but they are not really suitable
for moving subjects — eg trees in the wind — and cost a
Then on the 18th of February this year Canon announced
two new T&S lenses. The T&S stands for tilt and shift, which
means that the lens can be moved relative to the body in much the same
way as a field camera. It's nowhere near as versatile but for most work
it's more than enough. There are 17mm and 24mm versions of which the
24 sounds about right to me.
I've been thinking about switching from Canon to either
Nikon or Olympus but I've had pro Canon gear for over 30 years now and
am very reluctant to change. Anyway it would cost me too much and these
new lenses have certainly knocked the idea on the head, no other manufacturer
has anything as good.
The lens isn't available yet but I will need a "landscape"
camera to put it on when it is. My current camera, a 1D Mk2 N, is super
fast and good quality but tuned for wildlife work. It's twin brother,
the 1Ds has super quality with twice as many pixels and is therefore
usually considered more a landscape camera.
It's also twice the price, the current 1Ds model is
the Mk3 but at about $11,000 I won't be getting one of those any time
soon. So I've been looking for a good second hand Mk2. I tried eBay
and all the online stores and did find a few, but they're all overseas
and I'm very reluctant to send money to someone in the hope that I get
something in return.
For some reason I didn't even think of ringing the
local (ie Australian) camera stores until the other day. So when I do
guess what, I find two cameras.
One is in Melbourne and being sold for $4400 but it
sounds like it has had a lot of work as there are some wear marks around
the shutter release button. In the old days this was called "brassing"
because the paint had worn through to reveal the brass body underneath.
These days I guess it's called "polycarbonating", but either
way, when the paint has worn off due to the constant rubbing of a finger
then the camera has done a LOT of work.
The other one is at Teds in Brisbane. At $3700 and
only six months old it sounds much better. But I need to know how many
shutter actuations it's performed. The shop can't tell me but I know
how to find out so I ask them to send me a photo taken with the camera.
This will also allow me to see if the sensor is clean, after the recent
mould issue with my current camera I'm a bit wary of these things.
They email me a photo, I run a program recently downloaded
from the web and it tells me that the camera has done 28,506 clicks.
As these shutters are rated for 200,000 that's pretty low mileage and
they assure me that the body is in good nick so I buy it.
First though the photo revealed a large blob on the
sensor, so they send the camera to Canon to be cleaned, then forward
it to me.
And today it arrives, and what a weapon it is too.
I also get a phone call from the Melbourne store,
they've figured out how many shots their camera has taken, over 200,000
and they still want $700 more than the one I bought.
I think I done good.
And the moral of this story, if possible don't buy
new digital cameras, they depreciate too fast.
Remember that 12 months ago last year's models were
the ducks guts, the best thing ever. They are still just as good, it's
just that most people want the latest. The new versions may be better,
but if the old ones are good enough what does it matter? I just saved
about $7000 by waiting a couple of years. It's different with lenses,
good glass is forever.
Of course the same logic applies to cars, but
we won't talk about that.
Sat 27 Mar 2009
And speaking of doing good.
Our neighbour (Bob) asks if I could help him set up
his new satellite TV as he's having trouble getting it to work, so I
go down to help. Before long I spot the problem, he's mounted the LNB
incorrectly. We remount it then spend some time tuning things and he's
off and running.
Bob used to live in his shed but he was busted by
the council and has spent the last couple of years building a house.
While living in the shed he used one of those new-fangled eco composting
toilets, but with the new house the toilet is surplus to his requirements
and a year ago I was considering offering him some money for it.
How much? Well I usually work on about 50% of the
new price for second hand items, although given what this item is likely
to be full of maybe a little less would be in order. I knew Bob paid
about $2000 and so was prepared to spend around $1000, but we were working
on the truck at the time and anyway I figured as time goes by I'd get
it for less.
So today I ask if he wants to get rid of it.
And what does he want for it?
And for that he'll clean and deliver it as well.
Our new eco dunny. Hours of fun for the whole family.
Talk about a throne, the thing is enormous but
it's just lacking that certain something. I know, a pair of golden
rampant lions and maybe some red cushions. Note there's a foot stool
included because without one your feet won't reach the ground. I'm
not sure where we'll install it, whatever we do it can't be permanent
because we'll be leaving soon.
So that's pretty good news, but the even gooder
news is that these dunnies now cost $2500 new.
Thu 21 Apr 2009
We decide to tot up the number of wildlife
species we've seen lately while sitting on the deck, and we come up
with a pretty fair list. This is a list of the those we can remember...
- Australian raven
- Black cockatoo
- Black-faced cuckoo shrike
- Black-faced woodswallow
- Brown thornbill
- Brush cuckoo
- Double-barred finch
- Fairy martin
- Fan-tailed cuckoo
- Forest kingfisher
- Golden whistler
- Grey-backed butcher bird
- Grey shrike-thrush
- Grey fantail
- King parrot
- Kookaburra (laughing kingfisher)
- Little friarbird
- Little woodswallow
- Magpie lark
- Masked lapwing
- Masked woodswallow
- Noisy friarbird
- Olive-backed oriole
- Pale yellow robin
- Pacific baza (type of hawk)
- Pale-headed rosella
- Peaceful dove
- Pheasant coucal
- Pied butcher bird
- Pied currawong
- Rainbow lorikeet
- Red-backed fairy wren
- Red-browed finch
- Restless flycatcher
- Rufus whistler
- Satin flycatcher
- Scarlet honey eater
- Scaly-breasted lorikeet
- Scrub turkey
- Spangled drongo
- Striated pardelote
- Tawny frogmouth owl
- Tree martin
- Varied sittella
- Wedge-tailed eagle
- Willie wagtail
- White-bellied cuckoo shrike
- White-throated honeyeater
- White-throated treecreeper
- White-winged chough
- Unidentified hawk or kite
- Unidentified grouse
- Unidenditied owl.
- Still some more we've seen but haven't identified
That's at least 58 species of birds, but there's
a lot of other wildlife as well, for example...
- Pretty-faced wallabies
- Swamp wallabies
- Black wallaby
- Grey kangaroo
- Echidna (spiny ant eater)
- Goanna (huge monitor lizard)
- Bearded dragons
- Bandicoots (cute little marsupials)
- Rufus bettong
And more bugs than you can poke a macro lens at,
is it any wonder we like sitting here?
Fri 3 Apr 2009
There has been some concern out there in the
world that we are getting just a little too comfortable here on our
land and may actually settle down.
It's true that there are times when I think I could
just sit here forever and after two years of work and drama building
the new Wothahellizat we just wanted to sit tight and smell the roses,
which is what we've been doing now for about two months.
But there's hardly a day goes past that we don't
talk about where we're going and when, and we have pretty much decided
on that. Our current plan is to slowly head south in August with
a view to being in Kosciuszko in the spring followed by summer in
Meanwhile we have to do as little as possible. As
you know we've made a few purchases lately, those purchasing decisions
have been based on getting a certain amount of cash from my superannuation,
however the money was transferred yesterday and the amount was somewhat
less than expected.
Hopefully it's a cock up by my superannuation company
(who cannot be identified at this point, so I'll just call them MLC)
that will be rectified, but knowing our luck it will be due to a fee
that was described in paragraph 23b(ii) on the reverse of a form I filled
in twenty years ago. Something like...
23b(ii) The superannuant
(hereinafter referred to as "Muggins") agrees that should
he or she wish to withdraw a sum or sums of money from their hard-earned
superannuation savings said superannuant agrees to any fee or
fees that may or may not apply and that may or may not be levied
against Muggins by the holder of said hard-earned savings (hereinafter
"the Arseholes") and that said fee or levy shall be
either the sum of $1 or any amount envisaged by the Arseholes
multiplied by the last three digits of the Arsehole's phone number,
whichever is the larger, Muggins further agrees that for any amount
of said savings to be released the conditions itemised in paragraph
21 subsections (i) and (ii) must be fulfilled, failing which paragraph
45 clause (iv) will be invoked in which the Arseholes may multiply
any fee or levy as determined in paragraph 23b(ii) by the last
two digits of any phone number chosen at random from a phone book
of the Arsehole's choice.
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23b(iii) It should also
be noted that most of the previous clause, specifically an amount
less than 100% but greater than 99%, is total bullshit and further
that some 90% of said clause is fake Latin generated by one of
the many fake Latin generating web sites that can be found by
Googleing "fake latin".
The upshot of this is that we have about $1000 to
last us three months, which is not a problem but there won't be
any new toys purchased in that time, we'll just have to occupy ourselves
with free activities, like weeding and clearing.
Burning some of the grass and wood
we've cleared with uncut grass in the background. In some areas
the grass is taller than me.
Many of the larger logs are chainsawed
into lengths for our firewood pile.
Mon 6 Apr 2009
The Jimny will be ready for delivery tomorrow
so I've been stripping the Cruiser of anything that could conceivably
be useful in the future.
As the Cruiser is unregisterable these days, due mostly
to some welding repairs I made on the chassis, we won't be trading it
in but have found a fellow who buys old Cruisers and rebuilds them.
He offered to buy the car several months ago and fortunately he still
wants it, mostly I think because it has power steering, something that
is very rare on these old 4x4s.
If we keep the Cruiser in our name we can reregister
it for ever, but it cannot be registered in a new name because it
would have to undergo a road worthy inspection and the welded chassis
won't pass. Modifying or repairing a vehicle's chassis is very much
frowned upon by the authorities unless you're a qualified chassis
repair guy, which of course I'm not.
The Cruiser is stripped ready to hand over.
Note the bag of Lucerne chaff in the back of the
Cruiser, that's for our new $50 eco-loo and it's huge, I don't know
how we'll transport such things with the Jimny, probably when we
settle down we'll buy a trailer.
Tue 7 Apr 2009
Off to town first thing after confirming that
the Jimny is indeed ready to collect.
Surprisingly there are no stuff ups and within 10
minutes of arriving at the dealer the car is ours. We park in a vacant
lot next door, transfer some stuff from the Cruiser, then ring Robert
(the guy buying it) to come and collect.
When he arrives I follow him to his house in the Cruiser
then he drops me back to where Chris is waiting in the Jimny.
That's it then, the end of an era. The Cruiser has
been a great vehicle and I'm sorry to see it go. It had a few problems
early on, but since then it's taken us to some of Australia's most rugged
and remote places and never failed to the point that we couldn't proceed.
Not bad for a 25-year old car, one wonders if the Jimny will still be
as capable in 25 years.
Anyway the Cruiser is now history, it's Jimny time.
The new Jimny.
Wed 8 Apr 2009
More tyre problems, this time our new garden
trolley has a leaking tube. The trolley is quite low, luckily we have
one of those low-profile 10-tonne jacks that will fit under its axle.
Mon 13 Apr 2009
The weather is a bit ordinary today, but that
is a good thing in many ways. Normally the birds disappear at about
8 in the morning because it's getting too hot, but on overcast days
like today they stay out to play. This keeps us entertained for hours
and we have also added a few species to the list I posted the other
day. (we have now sighted 52+ bird
From the deck looking out into the rain.
Ooh what a lovely car, how did that get in the shot?
Later in the afternoon we try to go for a walk
around the block but the rain increases, it's really pissisting
it down so we beat a retreat to the truck and once again sit on
the deck. The birds have gone, I guess it's too much for them as
well, but the good news is that our tanks are now full again. We've
been living here for two months and we still have full water tanks,
the rainwater collection was certainly a good idea.
Tue 14 Apr 2009
Another dull day, weather wise that is, but
in other ways this day is something of a milestone. You see "our"
pretty-faced wallabies seem to be finally accepting us. Whereas they
used to run a mile on sight of their co-habiting humans, this morning
several of them just hang out in front of the truck.
For six hours Chris watches them (somewhat less time
for me as I'm a sleep-in kind of guy). Even one of the large males lay
down and appears to nod off, normally they are very alert and don't
let their guard down at all.
So hopefully they are finally realising that it's
safe to be around us. When wild animals do this I always find it
a huge privilege.
Here's the man of the house having a groom...
...before lying down for a nap.
While his girlfriends chat and eat the new green grass.
Now where did I put that?
Just thought I'd have some fun with one
of the wallaby shots.
Wed 15 Apr 2009
Chris goes back into the hospital today to
have her cast removed. Her arm is still very sore and I can't help
but wonder if thing's are OK, I've known people with broken limbs
before and after a while they suffer no pain at all, just the inconvenience
of the cast.
After much head scratching and consulting with others
the doctor says she may have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome,
a name that's actually longer than the broken arm, so we like to call
it Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.
He gives her a referral for the physio upstairs saying
that she needs a splint followed by a course of physio. After some searching
through the rabbit warren that is the Bundaberg Base Hospital we find
the Physio section, but it's the wrong one, we need the Occupational
Therapy (or OT, see I'm learning the jargon) people, and they're on
the next floor up.
More wandering through corridors brings us to Occupational
Therep...sorry OT but they can't do anything until next week.
All in all a pretty frustrating day.
Fri 17 Apr 2009
We've done some research on this Reflex Sympathetic
Dystrophy Syndrome thing and it seems that it can be a real pain (literally)
and last for months or even years.
This could very much hobble our plans
as Chris can't drive, which makes the acquisition of a new car something
of an issue.
She's determined that this will only
be a temporary setback though and messages of sympathy will be gratefully
received. To help I've prepared a short pro forma document...
Sorry to hear of your troubles
and our best wishes are with you in this time of need. I can only
hope that you find the strength to overcome this adversity and the
fortitude to persevere through these hard times as you are forced
to wash the dishes on a daily basis.
[your name here]
BTW how's Chris's arm?
Just cut and paste it into your email
program, include a $5 note, and send it to
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